The Truth About Cars » 3WTP http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:13:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 3WTP http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com What’s Wrong With This Picture: Where’s The Tailpipe? Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-wheres-the-tailpipe-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-wheres-the-tailpipe-edition/#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 19:42:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=445591 I should go on vacation more often. No, really. Last time I took some time off, I accidentally caught a parade of BMW prototypes descending the Sellajoch in Italy’s Dolomite Alps. Then, just weeks ago when I was in Los Angeles with Bertel, I was driving along towards Venice when I caught a glimpse of […]

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I should go on vacation more often. No, really. Last time I took some time off, I accidentally caught a parade of BMW prototypes descending the Sellajoch in Italy’s Dolomite Alps. Then, just weeks ago when I was in Los Angeles with Bertel, I was driving along towards Venice when I caught a glimpse of the tell-tale camouflage that makes every auto enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. And then I noticed that it had no tailpipe…

Of course, the vehicle I caught wasn’t anything earth-shattering, just a prototype of Toyota’s first-ever EV for the American market. And here in California, where electric RAV4s have been running around since 1997, this prototype didn’t exactly bring traffic to a halt. Still, it’s a reminder that even EV skeptics like Toyota are already dipping a toe in the battery-powered market… if only as a “compliance exercise.” Plus, it’s more evidence that my employers should give me more time to get away from the computer and drive around unfamiliar places. Obviously these prototypes want me to find them…
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Weekend Weird Crush: “The Small God For The Big Future” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/weekend-weird-crush-the-small-god-for-the-big-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/weekend-weird-crush-the-small-god-for-the-big-future/#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2012 19:36:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424799 Maruti Suzuki’s big news at the Delhi Auto Show was the debut of its production compact MPV, the Ertiga. But it wasn’t all staid family-carriers at the Suzuki stand, as the Japanese-Indian automaker also debuted its XA Alpha concept, described in this dramatically-narrated (to put it mildly) video as “The Small God For The Big […]

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Maruti Suzuki’s big news at the Delhi Auto Show was the debut of its production compact MPV, the Ertiga. But it wasn’t all staid family-carriers at the Suzuki stand, as the Japanese-Indian automaker also debuted its XA Alpha concept, described in this dramatically-narrated (to put it mildly) video as “The Small God For The Big Future.” Remember the Suzuki Samurai (our global readers will certainly remember the Jimny)? It’s getting ready for its 21st Century makeover…

Suzuki says that the styling of this subcompact SUV, aimed at Ford’s new Ecosport and GM’s forthcoming Mokka, was inspired by traditional Indian wrestlers. Which may well be the case, but there’s no deny that there’s at least a little Range Rover Evoque in the look.

But what’s more enticing than the styling itself, is the question of whether or not a vehicle like this could bolster Suzuki’s muddled US product line. Suzuki has already established itself as the go-to option for low-cost AWD vehicles in the US with its SX4… but one can’t help wondering how many sales that model leaves on the table due to its small-hatchback design. With a more rugged, more-SUV-looking model on similar underpinnings, Suzuki might just be able to build a rugged-entry-AWD image in this market as Subaru moves inexorably upmarket towards an “Audi Junior” positioning.

In any case, the B-SUV market is starting to get some real attention globally, as the global giants update their aged entrants in the segment for ever-more-demanding developing markets. And as a fan of this genre, with its small, funky, affordable and surprisingly utilitarian mini-utes, I certainly hope someone decides to test the US waters with something like this.

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NAIAS Preview: Ford Serves Up Some Global Fusion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-preview-new-ford-fusion-global/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-preview-new-ford-fusion-global/#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2012 18:50:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424773 Ever since the ill-fated Contour experiment, Ford has maintained a strict separation in its global midsized offerings: Fusion for the Americas and Mondeo for Europe (let’s ignore, for the moment, Australia’s Falcon as the doomed atavism it is). But under the global “One Ford” strategy, a fusion (ahem) of The Blue Oval’s midsized offerings was […]

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Ever since the ill-fated Contour experiment, Ford has maintained a strict separation in its global midsized offerings: Fusion for the Americas and Mondeo for Europe (let’s ignore, for the moment, Australia’s Falcon as the doomed atavism it is). But under the global “One Ford” strategy, a fusion (ahem) of The Blue Oval’s midsized offerings was inevitable, and Ford has signaled for some time that the Fusion and Mondeo are on the verge of becoming one. And here, courtesy of the autoforum.cz, is the first leaked image of Ford’s unified, world-wide midsized contender: though the Fusion and Mondeo names will continue to be used in their respective markets, this car will carry both badges. But are we looking at a revolution in the oft-troubled “world car” game, or a repeat of the Contour’s compromises? Only time will tell…

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: I Believe I Asked For A Small Mokka Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-i-believe-i-asked-for-a-small-mokka-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-i-believe-i-asked-for-a-small-mokka-edition/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2011 14:22:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423282 Editor’s Note: The image above is from Autobild (and is posted elsewhere in the German media), and is not labeled as a rendering, a spy shot or an official image. An anonymous tipster who has seen the upcoming Buick “Encore” (which GM has shown to select fans and journos under embargo for years now) says […]

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Editor’s Note: The image above is from Autobild (and is posted elsewhere in the German media), and is not labeled as a rendering, a spy shot or an official image. An anonymous tipster who has seen the upcoming Buick “Encore” (which GM has shown to select fans and journos under embargo for years now) says the vehicle shown here is “basically the same design” as the Encore. 

At first glance, it’s fairly obvious that there’s something not quite right with this picture. Better than most photoshops or renderings, but not quite convincing as a real picture, this car seems trapped in the Uncanny Valley, as if it were photographed undergoing winter testing on the set of the film The Polar Express. In any case, this little Corsa-based CUV (allegedly to be named “Mokka”) will debut at the Geneva Auto Show, and will take on such B-segment crossovers as the Nissan Juke, Suzuki SX4 and Ford’s forthcoming new Ecosport.

Meanwhile, GM’s American-market interpretation of a B-segment CUV is likely to be quite different from these little rough-and-ready softroaders [Ed: Or, not]. Buick is slow-strip-teasing its forthcoming Encore on Facebook, and it’s already looking like the Baby Enclave rumors were well-founded in terms of its exterior design. On the other hand, this isn’t a wildly detailed photo, so who knows? Either way, both the Mokka and the Encore are based on a jacked-up version of the Gamma II subcompact platform, and based on a video of what appears to be some relatively early chassis testing, the short-wheelbase and tall suspension took a little taming. Hit the jump to see for yourself…

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: A Mini’s Progress Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-a-minis-progress-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-a-minis-progress-edition/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2011 15:05:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422923 My two weeks in Europe has drawn to a close, and I’m back at my familiar desk, in front of my familiar computer, catching up on all the automotive happenings I missed, contemplating my transition out of TTAC’s day-to-day leadership, and reflecting on all I saw over my whirlwind two weeks. And though you haven’t […]

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My two weeks in Europe has drawn to a close, and I’m back at my familiar desk, in front of my familiar computer, catching up on all the automotive happenings I missed, contemplating my transition out of TTAC’s day-to-day leadership, and reflecting on all I saw over my whirlwind two weeks. And though you haven’t heard from me much in the last two weeks, rest assured that I have  not forgotten TTAC, nor have I missed any opportunities to accumulate impressions from the automotive landscape of modern Europe.

This week I will publish two reviews of the automobiles I drove over the last two weeks, and though neither of these cars are available in the US, I believe they both hold fascinating lessons that are highly applicable and relevant to both the US market and the global auto business. But in the meantime I thought I’d share this picture, which would be near impossible to take in the US, and which speaks volumes about the evolution of small cars. Just blocks from Paris’s Place de la Concorde, in front of Chanel’s flagship Parisian boutique, I was able to capture a classic and modern Mini, with a Smart ForTwo sandwiched in between for scale.

I’ll leave commentary on this image to TTAC’s Best and Brightest, but I will say that the tableau stopped me in my tracks. Though I’ve always loved the classic Mini, and I have only the deepest admiration for those who keep these wonderful cars in daily use, this image confirms just how much our automotive expectations have changed. If you think a Smart makes undue compromises in the pursuit of its city-friendly size, imagine what an original Mini must be like in today’s traffic….

 

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Scion FR-S: How To Say “Hachi-Roku” In American http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/scion-fr-s-how-to-say-hachi-roku-in-american/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/scion-fr-s-how-to-say-hachi-roku-in-american/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2011 18:13:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420958 TTAC has long been bearish on the Scion brand, and in a lot of ways, Toyota’s global tri-branding strategy with its new “86” sportscar (Toyota, Subaru and Scion versions are being sold) highlights how Toyota has lost its branding focus. On the other hand, the FR-S, Scion’s version of the 86, is by far the […]

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TTAC has long been bearish on the Scion brand, and in a lot of ways, Toyota’s global tri-branding strategy with its new “86” sportscar (Toyota, Subaru and Scion versions are being sold) highlights how Toyota has lost its branding focus. On the other hand, the FR-S, Scion’s version of the 86, is by far the most compelling product that brand has offered… well, possibly ever (OK, since the Mk1 xB). If I were king of Toyota, I’d probably still kill off Scion and sell the 86 as a Celica in the US… after all, how much sense does it make to have two sporty coupes at Scion and none for the Toyota brand? But if Scion follows the FR-S up with a new truly compact pickup co-developed with Daihatsu, as has been rumored, I’d be willing to concede that Scion has a place in the market. After all, truly unique, funky vehicles justified Scion’s existence in the first place, before a watered-down second generation of products killed that positioning (and Scion’s sales). With the FR-S, Scion seems to be heading back towards focused and freaky niche confections… let’s hope it continues to return to those roots.
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Volkswagen Crosses Its Tiguan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/volkswagen-crosses-its-tiguan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/volkswagen-crosses-its-tiguan/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2011 18:15:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420788 If there’s a word to describe VW’s future plans in the US, it’s “big.” There is still no specific plan to bring subcompact Polos to the US, and likely only an EV version of the new Up! city car. Even Audi is shying away from bringing more small products to the US, nixing the A1 […]

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If there’s a word to describe VW’s future plans in the US, it’s “big.” There is still no specific plan to bring subcompact Polos to the US, and likely only an EV version of the new Up! city car. Even Audi is shying away from bringing more small products to the US, nixing the A1 and only supporting exports of the A2 in EV form. And according to Automotive News [sub] the next big thing for VW’s US portfolio could be a midsized CUV, built at its new Chattanooga plant and slotting between the Tiguan and Touareg. But this concept is not that CUV. According to VW, this CrossCoupe Concept is an exploration of alternative bodystyles for the compact CUV platform, more akin to a Range Rover Evoque than a mass market model… think “Tiguan CC” and you’ll be getting the idea. So, will it be built? VW sources tell Automotive News [sub] that

We won’t rule out the possibility of adding a sportier SUV to the Volkswagen lineup at some time. But the main message with the Cross Coupe is its styling, which stands for the future of SUV design at Volkswagen

You can see the evolution of VW’s new three-slat grille, further integrating the new cue into the headlights for a more cohesive fascia design. But does it work? We’ll let you be the judge of that…

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What’s Wrong With This Picture? Famous Car Intellectual Property Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-famous-car-intellectual-property-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-famous-car-intellectual-property-edition/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2011 18:30:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420411 Blue car but no blue oval. Wintertime is coming, mama, the windows are filled with frost. So I went over to the nearby strip mall to get some thermal underwear. That doesn’t rhyme even half as well as Dylan’s most forced rhymes, but it’s really what happened. There’s a C.W. Price store in the mall. […]

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Blue car but no blue oval.

Wintertime is coming, mama, the windows are filled with frost. So I went over to the nearby strip mall to get some thermal underwear. That doesn’t rhyme even half as well as Dylan’s most forced rhymes, but it’s really what happened. There’s a C.W. Price store in the mall. It used to be a location of the A.J. Wright chain that went under, and from the looks of things, all they needed to change were the signs. C.W. Price carries pretty much the same overstocked and distressed merchandise as A.J. Wright. Not quite as depressing as shopping at Big Lots but definitely not the Somerset Collection. While I was at the store of course I had to check out the cheap R/C cars that they had on sale for $6.99 and $7.99 with the other Christmas toys. At first glance they looked like Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugattis and Ford GTs. Actually, at second and third glance they still looked like those cars, scale models accurate down to the Veyron’s distinctive black hood, horseshoe Bugatti grille and exposed mid-mounted W16 engine.

Not-a-Bugatti

Nowhere, though, do the words “Ferrari”, “Lamborghini”, “Bugatti”, or “Ford” or those companies’ badging appear anywhere on the R/C cars or on the packaging. In some unintentional irony filtered through the joys of “Chinglish”, the Ford GT does have a decal at the top of the windshield that reads “FAMOUS CAR”.

Can I write anything funnier than reality?

Welcome to the wonderful of Chinese manufacturing where out the front door your vendor sells you your patented or licensed goods and out their back door they sell essentially the same products, only without branding, to dollar store distributors. It’s not a new story. Years ago Georgena Terry, founder of Terry Precision Bicycles for Women, found knock offs of her patented woman’s bike saddle on sale in the US that, based on the molding markings, had to have been made by her own supplier in China.

Legitimate Lamborghini? 

My guess is that something similar happened with these R/C cars. Xiangda Toys Factory, and Hunson Trading Co. are the brand names on the toys. What little that I could find out about the companies is that Xiangda makes R/C toys and the Hunson distributes R/C toys and other toys to dollar stores in North and South America. The Hunson labeled toys carry the XTR brand, which I’m guessing stands for Xiangda Toy Racing.

Here’s what I think is going on. If Xiangda or Hunson want to reply, we’ll give them an opportunity to do so. I think that Xiangda is the manufacturer and the Hunson is the distributor of all of these, regardless of how the specific toys are branded. On the multitudinous Chinese goods trading sites, you can find Hunson offering toys branded with names like Lamborghini so it’s possible that one or both of the companies has a legitimate license to make scale models. The toys could be complete knock offs, but they appeared, as I said, to be fairly accurate in terms of body shape, so they just as likely could have been molded with tooling made to produce licensed goods. I’m guessing that someone thought that they could make a few extra yuan by diverting some goods to market without the additional cost of paying a royalty fee.

There appears to be little risk. After all, this is being done in plain sight. Since they don’t sell the cars branded with the real car company names, as long as those brand names never appear on shipping manifests or customs documents nobody will ever be the wiser. Bugatti, Ferrari and Lamborghini’s licensing agents and lawyers don’t typically shop in stores like C.W. Price. Ford’s lawyers might have driven by the Price store on Telegraph in Redford, on their way to the Glass House in Dearborn, but again, they’re not likely shopping for their kids’ toys at dollar stores and deep discounters. Though it’s likely to be under the radar of white shoe law firms and their clients, dollar stores and deep discounters are still big business. There are over 20,000 stores operated by the three largest dollar store chains. Licensing deals typically pay 7-12% of wholesale prices as royalties. That means that for every one of these R/C cars that are distributed, somewhere between 25 and 50 cents doesn’t get paid to a car company that is rightfully theirs. That may not sound like much but when you consider that these toys are shipped over by the container load the IP infringement from quasi knock offs like these must represent significant sums of unpaid royalties.

Scale model radio control Fauxrrari

Of course, these days cars’ shapes are protected under intellectual property laws just as surely as Ferrari’s prancing horse and Lamborghini’s pawing bull are protected trademarks. My day gig is custom machine embroidery and I’ve gotten cease and desist letters from car companies unhappy about my embroidery designs that portray their cars. They were overreaching but it seems to me that while artists and photographers might have some leeway and fair use rights to create original art depicting a protected car design, there’s no doubt that if a car’s shape is copyrighted, making and selling scale models of that car would be infringing on the car company’s intellectual property, with or without a logo decal.

It happens with race cars too. When A.J. Wright was still in business, during the holiday season they’d sell R/C Formula One cars that looked just like the Ferrari and McLaren F1 cars, down to the coloring of the sponsors’ decals. Only if you looked closely the sponsors’ names were close but actually fictional, and nowhere did it say the team names or F1. It reminded me of a store that would advertise selling “names like Hitachi and Sansui” and when you get there they are selling knock off brands named Hatichi and Sunsai.

This isn’t going to stop. As long as there’s a market for quasi knockoffs and as long as the Chinese government and Chinese industries benefit from those knock offs they will continue to be made. If General Motors couldn’t get Chery to stop making the QQ, a copy of a real car, Ford isn’t going to get Xiangda to stop making scale model Famous Cars.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Ultimate Driving… Van? Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-ultimate-driving-van-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-ultimate-driving-van-edition/#comments Sun, 27 Nov 2011 16:23:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420104 Which European automaker is working on this compact, front-drive MPV? It might look like a VW or Opel, but in fact it’s coming from the Roundel itself. BMW will release this five-seat, start-stop-equipped van sometime in 2014, giving its Euro-market customers an alternative to Mercedes’s B-Class van. But because this is still a BMW, a […]

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Which European automaker is working on this compact, front-drive MPV? It might look like a VW or Opel, but in fact it’s coming from the Roundel itself. BMW will release this five-seat, start-stop-equipped van sometime in 2014, giving its Euro-market customers an alternative to Mercedes’s B-Class van. But because this is still a BMW, a two liter turbo engine option will be offered, giving this otherwise humble little MPV a 245 HP kick. Still, this will be the most prosaic offering from a firm built around rear drive and six-cylinder engines. And though Mercedes is bringing at least one front-drive model to the US market, expect BMW to maintain its premium positioning here by keeping this MPV in the European market, where such efficient vehicles are not seen as being incompatible with a luxury brand.

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Give Thanks For Jag’s New XF Sportbrake http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/give-thanks-for-jags-new-sportbrake/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/give-thanks-for-jags-new-sportbrake/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2011 16:37:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419772 With luxury brands from Bentley to Maserati building “on-road SUVs” in search of ever-greater profits, Jaguar’s decision to build a traditional station wagon is something of a Connolly leather glove’d slap in the face of the luxury game. That’s right, this isn’t some wobbly, lozenge-shaped crossover, or some garish, blinged-out SUV; it’s just a clean, […]

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With luxury brands from Bentley to Maserati building “on-road SUVs” in search of ever-greater profits, Jaguar’s decision to build a traditional station wagon is something of a Connolly leather glove’d slap in the face of the luxury game. That’s right, this isn’t some wobbly, lozenge-shaped crossover, or some garish, blinged-out SUV; it’s just a clean, simple Jag-wagon.  Or “XF Sportbrake,” as Auto Motor und Sport insists on calling it. And though it may not be the most practical wagon, with its cargo area apparently styled for slim looks rather than capacity, it will be available with AWD, along with the rest of the XF line. Oh yeah, and a 510 HP XFR wagon should be an option as well… you know, for the journalists. All of which sounds like news to be very thankful for this Thanksgiving. Remember: this could have been a crossover!

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LA Auto Show: Live From Lincoln’s New Nose http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-live-from-lincolns-new-nose/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-live-from-lincolns-new-nose/#comments Sat, 19 Nov 2011 17:11:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419035 Lincoln’s updated look doesn’t seem to have won over too many of the skeptics, but before you make up your mind entirely, do check out these live shots from the LA Auto Show floor. Our man on the ground, Alex Dykes, notes The interior refinements are welcome, especially as Cadillac has made some improvements to […]

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Lincoln’s updated look doesn’t seem to have won over too many of the skeptics, but before you make up your mind entirely, do check out these live shots from the LA Auto Show floor. Our man on the ground, Alex Dykes, notes

The interior refinements are welcome, especially as Cadillac has made some improvements to their interiors lately. Lincolns My Touch systems do seem considerably snappier than the previous versions, but we won’t be sure about the reliability until someone at TTAC has one for a week.

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LA Auto Show: Coda Electric Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-coda-electric-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-coda-electric-sedan/#comments Sat, 19 Nov 2011 17:07:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419007 So you want to go green. The problem is a Prius isn’t green enough for you, what’s a green shopper to do? Go all in with all-electric. So far we have the Leaf and the newly announced Focus Electric both with ranges under 100 miles and charge times that can get a little long even […]

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So you want to go green. The problem is a Prius isn’t green enough for you, what’s a green shopper to do? Go all in with all-electric. So far we have the Leaf and the newly announced Focus Electric both with ranges under 100 miles and charge times that can get a little long even at 240V (the Leaf takes 7 hours). In step the new breed of auto makers: Tesla, Fisker and Coda (just to name a few). Coda is a new all-electric car made in China (assembled in California). The first thing that strikes you about the Coda sedan is how plain the design is. The second thing is how the parts don’t come from any parts bin I’ve ever seen with all the window switches and knobs having a unique look. Good or bad? Depends on how reliable the parts are. Coda touts fast charging times with the 6.6KW charger (2x the speed of the Leaf) and a battery pack that’s another 33% larger than the Nissan as well. The shorter charging time and larger battery pack mean an advertised (but not verified) longer range and shorter charging time than the Leaf. The trade off? A cheaper interior. Pricing is expected to be slightly higher than the Leaf at just under $40,000 less the usual tax incentives. On our short spin in the Coda on the roads around the LA Auto Show, the prototype vehicle had too many rough edges that are due to be polished to posit a firm opinion of the car. Stay tuned for a review of the production model in 2012.

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Volkswagen Goes Postal, Develops The Electric “Fridolin” Of The Future http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/volkswagen-goes-postal-develops-the-electric-fridolin-of-the-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/volkswagen-goes-postal-develops-the-electric-fridolin-of-the-future/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2011 18:28:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419184 Are you familiar with the Fridolin? If so, hit the jump. If not, here’s the brief version of its history. Unhappy with its adorable but inadequate, two-cylinder Goggomobil Transporters, the German Postal Service approached Volkswagen and Westfalia in the early 60s, looking for a new interpretation of what it was looking for, namely “arbeitspsychologisch optimaler Ausstattung zu […]

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Are you familiar with the Fridolin? If so, hit the jump. If not, here’s the brief version of its history. Unhappy with its adorable but inadequate, two-cylinder Goggomobil Transporters, the German Postal Service approached Volkswagen and Westfalia in the early 60s, looking for a new interpretation of what it was looking for, namely “arbeitspsychologisch optimaler Ausstattung zu einem günstigen Anschaffungspreis.” This is a tough phrase to translate, but essentially it means “equipment optimized for the workplace psychology, at an affordable price,” and in 1963 that’s what the VW-Westalia team delivered. A mixture of Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (Bus) and Type 3 (Fastback/Squareback), the Type 147 was first shown to the German Post in 1963, and was quickly nicknamed “Fridolin” (an uncommon German boy’s name) apparently because workers said “it looks like a Fridolin.” Only 6,126 were built between 1964 and 1973, and they continue to enjoy a strong collector’s cachet (primarily as slammed campers, apparently). And now, Volkswagen wants to re-create the classic… for the future. 

Based on a subcompact Polo-sized platform, VW’s eT Concept manages to offer nearly 144 cubic feet of storage. And because it’s aimed at the green-conscious postman of tomorrow (not to mention stop-start driving on fixed routes), it’s a purely electric concept with a 60-mile range and a 70 MPH top speed. Think of the performance as “optimized for the workplace psychology.” Speaking of which, one of the coolest features of the new concept is that it can actually be driven at speeds up to 6 km/h from the passenger seat, using something called the “drive stick.” The thing can even back itself up by remote control, using bumper-mounted sensors to avoid obstacles or stop itself. There’s no word on how soon this research vehicle will make its way into production, but because it was developed in partnership with the German Postal Service, some of its gizmology should filter into German postal vehicles. And with a very similar VW “Bulli” coming to market in 2015, not only could this actual vehicle be made, there may even be a civilian sliding-door version as well.

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Mastretta MXT: Neither Lazy, Feckless Nor Flatulent http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/mastretta-mxt-neither-lazy-feckless-nor-flatulant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/mastretta-mxt-neither-lazy-feckless-nor-flatulant/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2011 17:36:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419062 The Mastretta MXT is not very well-known outside of Top Gear buffs who recall Jeremy Clarkson giving the MXT an incredibly hard time for its Mexican heritage. Of course we all know Jeremy is a shock jock more than a motor head these days, so his opinion aside the MXT slots in right behind the Doking as one the more […]

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The Mastretta MXT is not very well-known outside of Top Gear buffs who recall Jeremy Clarkson giving the MXT an incredibly hard time for its Mexican heritage. Of course we all know Jeremy is a shock jock more than a motor head these days, so his opinion aside the MXT slots in right behind the Doking as one the more interesting cars on display in Los Angeles. The MXT is the first sports car designed and built-in Mexico, but rather than trying to dethrone Corvette or Mustang, Mastretta is going for the niche market of small, light kit cars. Yes, kit cars. At least north of the border…

You see, the company doesn’t have the funds to make the MXT pass all the safety standards in the USA and we don’t have the legal exemptions available on our side of the pond to allow them to sell low volume specialty cars like they do in Europe. So, if you want one, the fibreglass shell and extruded aluminum chassis will arrive fully assembled with two seats and a radio, all you have to do is un-crate the Ford-sourced engine and transmission, drop them in the rear and crank a few bolts. Of course, I’d take the extra step of removing the fibreglass body and driving down the highway Ariel Atom style, but that’s just me. Shoppers wanting this hot tamale don’t have long to wait with production supposedly underway with shipments starting in the first quarter 2012. Pricing? A moving target that started at $55,000 USD and now is in the $60,000-$65,000 ballpark. Not pocket change, but neither is that Lotus. (But at least the Lotus will at least arrive fully assembled.)

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LA Auto Show: Volvo’s New Dash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-volvos-new-dash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-volvos-new-dash/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2011 16:48:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419082 Volvo has been very quiet about new products since Ford sold the only Swedish car maker still afloat. With little fanfare Volvo has updated the S80 and XC70’s interior with a new dash and new infotainment system and this is the first time TTAC has seen them in person. The 7-inch color screen is the same as […]

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Volvo has been very quiet about new products since Ford sold the only Swedish car maker still afloat. With little fanfare Volvo has updated the S80 and XC70’s interior with a new dash and new infotainment system and this is the first time TTAC has seen them in person. The 7-inch color screen is the same as the system used in the new S60. Compared to iDrive and Audi’s MMI the system is just as slick-looking but the smallish screen size just lacks the wow factor the Germans get when passengers slip in the car. Along with the new screen Volvo has added pedestrian detection to the S80, XC70 and XC60 as well as a new adaptive cruise control system that will take your Volvo to a complete stop and hold you there until traffic resumes. Of course all this is secondary to the sexy new stitched pleather dash the S80 on the LA Auto Show floor was sporting. Sadly Volvo tells us they don’t anticipate putting these revised Volvos in the hands of the press for reviews, probably spending this precious cash to devise new and better nannies to save our bacon in the future.

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Infiniti JX: Three Rows, But Only Six Cylinders http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/infiniti-jx-three-rows-but-only-six-cylinders/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/infiniti-jx-three-rows-but-only-six-cylinders/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2011 00:30:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418688 When Infiniti said they were coming out with a new 7-passenger crossover, I, like the rest of the world, was expecting a stretched FX CUV with a V8 option, RWD and optional AWD. While the exterior was first shown off at Pebble Beach, the interior and drivetrain were merely well placed rumors. While Infiniti’s 3.5L […]

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When Infiniti said they were coming out with a new 7-passenger crossover, I, like the rest of the world, was expecting a stretched FX CUV with a V8 option, RWD and optional AWD. While the exterior was first shown off at Pebble Beach, the interior and drivetrain were merely well placed rumors. While Infiniti’s 3.5L V6 was the expected engine choice, the FWD (or optional AWD) CVT transmission was a curveball for sure. While I’ll try to hold my opinions until we can get some behind the wheel time, I am somewhat disapointed by the drivetrain choice. Inside, the JX is far from a disapointment continuing Infiniti’s recent trackrecord of world class cabins. While most of the shapes are familiar to Infiniti owners, many of the controls are new and only the steering wheel seems lifted directly off other Infiniti models. Like most vehicles in this segment, the third row of seats is best left to the small kids of that coworker you really hate.

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LA Auto Show: Bentley Meets Its Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-bentley-meets-its-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/la-auto-show-bentley-meets-its-market/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 22:16:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418761 If you’re ever in the mood to become disenchanted with some of the world’s most desireable automobiles, spend a little time in the Los Angeles area. In fact, Bentley’s Continental GT is a prime example of The City of Angels’ uncanny ability to make expensive, exclusive cars seem downright common. It’s not unlike seeing helmetless […]

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If you’re ever in the mood to become disenchanted with some of the world’s most desireable automobiles, spend a little time in the Los Angeles area. In fact, Bentley’s Continental GT is a prime example of The City of Angels’ uncanny ability to make expensive, exclusive cars seem downright common. It’s not unlike seeing helmetless motorcyclists when visiting states like Colorado or New Hampshire: at first you’re a little shocked at the ubiquity, and then you quickly stop noticing. So when I first saw the newly-redesigned 2012 Conti GT, I thought “this looks so similar to the old one, it will never sell in LA, where the previous model is as ubiquitous as fake breasts.” But then I realized that ubiquity also breeds a fine appreciation for detail, and that if anyone would notice the difference between the old and new models, it would be the hyper-status-conscious Angeleans. And with US sales up 35% this year through August, the lads from Crewe (and/or Wolfsburg) are clearly doing something right. Besides, a brand-new Continental GTC convertible is always appreciated in Los Angeles… Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail LA's next ubiquitous whip? IMG_5170 IMG_5169 IMG_5168 IMG_5167 IMG_5166 IMG_5165 IMG_5164 IMG_5163 IMG_5162 IMG_5161 IMG_5160 IMG_5159 IMG_5158 IMG_5157 IMG_5156 IMG_5155 IMG_5154 IMG_5153 IMG_5152 IMG_5151 IMG_5150 IMG_5149 IMG_5147 IMG_5146 IMG_5145 IMG_5144 IMG_5143 IMG_5142 IMG_5141 IMG_5140 IMG_5139 IMG_5138 IMG_5137 IMG_5136 IMG_5135 IMG_5134 IMG_5133

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What The Foxtrot Is a Doking? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/what-the-foxtrot-is-a-doking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/what-the-foxtrot-is-a-doking/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 19:53:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418809 Our LA Auto Show correspondents filed very little information on this bizarre little car, beyond noting that it is Made in Croatia, no comment on plans to make available for sale in the US. But a little research reveals that it is an EV prototype from the automotive branch of a Croatian unmanned vehicle manufacturing […]

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Our LA Auto Show correspondents filed very little information on this bizarre little car, beyond noting that it is

Made in Croatia, no comment on plans to make available for sale in the US.

But a little research reveals that it is an EV prototype from the automotive branch of a Croatian unmanned vehicle manufacturing concern. Dok-ing usually builds robotized vehicles for mine-clearing, fire fighting, and mining, but apparently it’s branching out into electric cars as well. Fast little electric cars at that: a four-motor, AWD version of this XD will hit 100 km/h (60 MPH) in 4.2 seconds, according to the company website. For the record, that’s one second slower than the Mclaren F1, which seems to have inspired the XD’s three-seat layout. Unfortunately, by the time you hit 120 km, you’ll only have just over 100 km of range. But then, it’s all hypothetical anyway, as Doking’s only market right now is Croatia, where these exotic little EVs are selling (or, more likely, not) for six-figure pricetags. On the other hand,

a company rep tells FoxNews.com that it is looking for investors to help federalize the car and set up a manufacturing facility for it in the United States. If successful, it says that it could produce up to 30,000 cars at a price of around $40,000 each.

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Chevy: Sparks Fly In Los Angeles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/chevy-sparks-fly-in-los-angeles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/chevy-sparks-fly-in-los-angeles/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 18:51:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418828 Way cuter than the Chevy Cruze, the new (for America) Spark might just prove that Chevy can do more than muscle cars and trucks. As confusing as the name seems to be for many, the Spark has nothing to do with the Volt, and at the moment it is not an electric car (there is […]

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Way cuter than the Chevy Cruze, the new (for America) Spark might just prove that Chevy can do more than muscle cars and trucks. As confusing as the name seems to be for many, the Spark has nothing to do with the Volt, and at the moment it is not an electric car (there is however an all-electric Spark planned for 2013). The rest of the buyers will get the new 1.2L, 85HP, four cylinder engine. With a curb weight under 2300 lbs, the light weight Spark should get MPGs in the 30s in the city and in the 40s on the open road. Nobody would talk pricing with us, but we were told it should be under $15K to start which will include the 7-inch color LCD screen for the infotainment system. While it may sound like GM has found their small car mojo at long last, fear not the Spark is still cogs shy of the competition, with a 4-speed slush box or a 5 speed manual being the transmissions of choice in America. What kind of mileage would a 6 speed Spark yield? The world may never know.

The Camaro? Yeah, would have been much more exciting if there wasn’t a new 650HP Mustang.

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Honda Launches Fit EV, But Civic GX Takes Green Car Prize http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/honda-launches-fit-ev-but-civic-gx-takes-green-car-prize/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/honda-launches-fit-ev-but-civic-gx-takes-green-car-prize/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 17:59:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418709 Between the tsunamis, floods, and poorly-received Civic, Honda has had  a rough 2011. But the brand is hoping to put all that behind it by emphasizing its environmentally-friendly product portfolio, announcing a Fit EV which will be made available in California, Oregon and six east coast markets next summer. Unlike Nissan, however, Honda isn’t actually […]

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Between the tsunamis, floods, and poorly-received Civic, Honda has had  a rough 2011. But the brand is hoping to put all that behind it by emphasizing its environmentally-friendly product portfolio, announcing a Fit EV which will be made available in California, Oregon and six east coast markets next summer. Unlike Nissan, however, Honda isn’t actually selling the electric commuter cars, but is offering them at a $399/month lease rate. And no wonder: Honda only expects 1,000 of these Fit EVs to find homes over the next three years, probably due at least in part to its north-of-$36k price point. Which may be why the natural gas-powered Civic GX just won the Green Car Of The Year award for Honda. It may not be as radical or purely “green” as a pure EV, but it can sell in volume… in fact, Wards Auto [sub] just reported that Honda is bumping production of the CNG Civic in order to catch up with demand. At a time when Honda is desperate for some good news (and nobody is losing their mind over the new CR-V), a little publicity for one of Honda’s most unique and under-marketed vehicles probably feels like manna from heaven…

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LA Auto Show: Jaguar and Land Rover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/jaguar-and-land-rover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/jaguar-and-land-rover/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 17:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418595 Jaguar-Land Rover’s only all-new debut at the LA show is the mad XKR-S Convertible, which it says will be its fastest, most rigid convertible ever. And with its five-liter supercharged V8 making 550 HP, that may be an understatement: the XKR-S may be one of the fastest convertibles ever… at least it would be if […]

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Jaguar-Land Rover’s only all-new debut at the LA show is the mad XKR-S Convertible, which it says will be its fastest, most rigid convertible ever. And with its five-liter supercharged V8 making 550 HP, that may be an understatement: the XKR-S may be one of the fastest convertibles ever… at least it would be if Chevy weren’t showing its Camaro ZL1 Convertible at the very same show. But for fans of the Indian-owned brand, the XKR-S is just a warm-up for Jag’s first new sportscar ages, as signaled by the CX-16 Concept that debuted at Frankfurt. It’s no F-Type, but the Maserati GT-meets-Nissan Z styling should definitely help give the brand a boost. Finally, JLR is offering another look at its possible future with its Land Rover Defender DC100 Concept, which hints at a new Defender that is apparently in development. And with Jaguar-Landie once again earning profits for its corporate overlord,  the future looks promising for these two brands.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Lord Love A Lincoln Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-lord-love-a-lincoln-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-lord-love-a-lincoln-edition/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 16:17:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418907 What can you even say about Lincoln at this point? The brand talks up its new design studio, and then releases a “spot the changes” facelift. Critics bash the brand’s waterfall grille as “cetacean,” so for the facelift Lincoln goes and makes it look even more like baleen. Lincolns have little identity beyond Fords loaded up with there-for-the-sake-of-it […]

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What can you even say about Lincoln at this point? The brand talks up its new design studio, and then releases a “spot the changes” facelift. Critics bash the brand’s waterfall grille as “cetacean,” so for the facelift Lincoln goes and makes it look even more like baleen. Lincolns have little identity beyond Fords loaded up with there-for-the-sake-of-it technology, so they give the MKS and MKT (Ecoboost only) “Continuously Controlled Damping”… to polish their carefully-honed performance image? Because consumers were clamoring for a Lincoln, but didn’t buy because “Sport Mode” wasn’t available on its giant crossover? I know these are only holdover models, and that Lincoln will eventually come out with something all-new. I know that picking on these sales weaklings is too easy. I know that there are probably even a few folks out there that find the MKS and MKT to be the subtle-but-cosseting waft-mobiles that they’ve been waiting for… but I just can’t help myself. Especially when Lincoln’s press release on the MKS proclaims that

Refinements Signal Direction for Brand Today, Tomorrow.

Note to Lincoln: the future is not in refinements. If this brand is going to survive, it needs a clean sheet of paper.

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Mazda CX-5: Mazda’s New Look Hits The Streets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/mazda-cx-5-mazdas-new-look-hits-the-streets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/mazda-cx-5-mazdas-new-look-hits-the-streets/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 22:20:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418460 As a small, independent, enthusiast-oriented automaker, Mazda is constantly in a fight for its life, and with its profits eaten away by a rising yen, this is more true than ever. And though Mazdas tend to consistently receive critical praise for their handling characteristics, styling has long been something of a sticking point for the […]

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As a small, independent, enthusiast-oriented automaker, Mazda is constantly in a fight for its life, and with its profits eaten away by a rising yen, this is more true than ever. And though Mazdas tend to consistently receive critical praise for their handling characteristics, styling has long been something of a sticking point for the brand. Last year Mazda launched a new look, called KODO, which aimed to position the company as “the Japanese Alfa-Romeo.” And though the first KODO car ever shown was a rather stunning sedan (since nicknamed the “Mazda-rati”), its first production KODO design is a rather more prosaic compact crossover, the CX-5. Which, in a way is fitting: if Mazda wants to survive to build Miatas and Speed3s, it will need to sell a grip of compact platform-variants like this one. Not only does this CX-5 look like it should sell better than the aging Escape-rebadge Tribute it replaces, its fuel economy (ranging between 26-33 for FWD/MT and 25/30 with AWD/AT) is finally competitive too. Now, as long as it drives like a Mazda…
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2013 Hyundai Azera: Look Out LaCrosse http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/2013-hyundai-azera-look-out-lacrosse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/2013-hyundai-azera-look-out-lacrosse/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 21:21:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418548 Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of […]

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Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the Hyundai family. Hyundai says the new Azera’s design was pursued following the same “fluidic sculpture” theme as Elantra and Sonata, rather than aping the Genesis and Equus’s more formal design language… although to our eyes it almost splits the difference between the two looks. Meanwhile, its 3.3 liter, 293 HP V6 separates it from its V6-free Sonata cousin, while still providing what Hyundai claims is “class leading” efficiency.

Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik says they are transitioning Hyundai from a “Value brand” to a “Valuable brand” (yes, really), and this Azera is intended to help challenge cars like the Acura TL and Lexus ES as well as the Taurus and Avalon. And with no plans for new US production capacity, despite razor-thin inventories, moving the brand upmarket makes sense for Hyundai. And replacing the old dullard of an Azera was a crucial step in that direction.
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Cadillac XTS Debuts, Doesn’t “Blow The Doors Off” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/cadillac-xts-debuts-doesnt-blow-the-doors-off/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/cadillac-xts-debuts-doesnt-blow-the-doors-off/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 19:45:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418488 Throughout its history, Cadillac has fed the press some glorious concept cars dripping with opulence, snazzy features and WTF styling. This works when production cars live up to the concept’s hype, but a history of histrionics is less helpful when you’re launching a car that somehow defies hype  altogether [Ed: see AutoWeek's headline: "Cadillac aims its flagship XTS […]

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Throughout its history, Cadillac has fed the press some glorious concept cars dripping with opulence, snazzy features and WTF styling. This works when production cars live up to the concept’s hype, but a history of histrionics is less helpful when you’re launching a car that somehow defies hype  altogether [Ed: see AutoWeek's headline: "Cadillac aims its flagship XTS at imports and traditional buyers"].  Don’t get it wrong, the XTS is not intended as a true flagship for the brand (GM’s release calls it “the newest addition to the lineup” and “the most technologically advanced production car in the brand’s history”), but at the launch at the LA Auto Show the XTS’s FWD proportions, slab sides and generally predictable exterior dominated the first impressions. Put simply, the midsized sedan exudes none of the presence that makes the CTS-V coupe exciting, possibly due to the fact that it has what may be Cadillac’s shortest hood ever. No wonder GM CEO Dan Akerson warned us that the XTS “wouldn’t blow the doors off” the competition.

Inside, however, we found perhaps the best interior Cadillac has fashioned in decades. Cadillac spent a great deal of time telling the assembled press masses that this Caddy is different, this Cadillac is world class and this Cadillac will be at the top of the luxury food chain. And yet the competitive comparisons are all against the mid-line sedans from Europe. Which is really no surprise, considering the XTS is still motivated by the same 300HP V6 we see in other GM products, mated to the same 6-speed FWD transmission and AWD. New to the midsized party are Magnetic Ride Control shocks and and an eLSD in the rear which promises to improve handling when the going gets twisty. Not that anyone will take the XTS to the track mind you. Blue hairs will however love the new full-stop radar cruise control and the “virtual bumper” which will stop you automagically when you try to run over Joey on his trike. The new Cadillac infotainment system also appears to be a winner combining Apple-like multi-touch gestures with Android-like haptic feedback. All in all, it’s a strange beats, this XTS.

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